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February 05, 2013

Bigelow Aerospace Publishes Pricing for Commercial Space Station

By Doug Mohney, Contributing Editor


Commercial space station builder and soon-to-be-operator Bigelow Aerospace has put up pricing and information on its website for everything from a single astronaut flight of 10 to 60 days, to leasing volume in the station for up to six months.

Oh, and exclusive naming rights too.

The per-seat rate for an astronaut will be either $26.25 million if a SpaceX Dragon capsule, or Falcon 9 rocket is selected for transportation or $36.75 million for the Boeing (News - Alert) CST-100 and ULA Atlas V. Bigelow notes that it’s a bargain compared to the $40 million and more paid for a week-long visit to the International Space Station (ISS). 

A stay can be anywhere from 10 to 60 days, with visiting astronauts getting access to Bigelow's "Alpha Station" shared research facilities. Equipment expected to be available include a centrifuge, glove-box, microscope, furnace and freezer.

"Also, potential clients should note that as opposed to the ISS, where astronauts dedicate the lion's share of their time to supporting station operations and maintenance, astronauts aboard the Alpha Station will be able to focus exclusively on their own experiments and activities, ensuring that both nations and companies can gain full value from their investment in a human spaceflight program," Bigelow stated.

Currently, a six-person crew aboard ISS gets about a 40-hour week worth of research. NASA and its ISS partners hope to boost the station crew complement to seven people once one or more of the U.S. commercial crew providers start flying missions, thereby adding another researcher.

Bigelow is very clear about its market, sovereign countries; "Nations such as Japan, Canada, Brazil, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Sweden could secure the future of their human spaceflight programs and dramatically increase the size of their astronaut corps," stated the company's website. "Smaller countries with no human spaceflight experience such as Singapore or the United Arab Emirates could take their first bold steps into space in a rapid and affordable fashion."

Benefits for flying astronauts to Alpha are many, including "dramatically transform" a nation's image; creating jobs and new opportunities through microgravity research, development and manufacturing; and attracting "the best and brightest minds" from around the world to a country's universities and companies.

More ambitious clients can lease up to a third of a BA-330 habitat section – 110 cubic meters and equated to an entire ISS module) for 60 days at a price of $25 million. Roll in a Dragon/Falcon 9 trip, and a client can have both an on-orbit astronaut plus all that research space for $51.25 million.

In comparison, NASA is paying around $62.7 million per seat on a Russian Soyuz just to deliver one astronaut to ISS. Clients are allowed to sublease their on-orbit volume and resell purchased seats, so they can reduce their own costs or even make a profit.

Finally, there's Alpha Station naming rights. For $25 million a year, you get exclusive naming rights to the entire facility. Naming one of the two BA-330 modules compromising Alpha Station is available for $12.5 million.

Bigelow's pricing looks very attractive when compared to ISS space station visits and Golden Spike moon landing tickets at $750 million per seat. But no country has signed a contract and put down a deposit for an in-orbit stay at this point in time.




Edited by Braden Becker



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